She is the world's highest paid and most popular mystery novelist and Patricia Daniels Cornwell says her method is simple: she starts with a body and then allows the story to tell itself. The tales are fascinating and full of sinister happenings, macabre monsters, victims either innocent or unfortunate and most of all forensic detail which makes her plots so goose-pimply believable.
The paperback 'From Potter's Field' was this summer's number one British bestseller. Her seventh novel featuring her pathologist heroine Dr Kay Scarpetta,'Cause of Death', will go straight to the top of the hardback list when it is published on October 7. In the New Year she is launching a new series about a policeman and a newspaper reporter and the first, 'Hornet's Nest', will be published in America in February and released in the UK in the Spring.
She was a multi-millionaire before she signed a three-book contract with G.P. Putnam's Sons for $24 million and another $3 million for British rights seven months ago. In Washington she seeks not political office but the influence her wealth and fame can bring. She has a film production company in Hollywood which is in the process of bringing Scarpetta to the cinema screen. She is a close friend of Billy Graham's wife Ruth and a survivor of depression and the diet disorder anorexia nervosa.
She also fears for her life, carries two guns in her handbag and is said to be the lesbian lover of a former FBI agent whose armed husband -- also a Government agent -- was arrested after a violent confrontation with his wife on whom he had taken out a one million dollar insurance policy. The circumstances -- and Cornwell's love life -- are expected to unfold in court in Washington D.C. before the end of the year.
'Patsy' Cornwall is at the centre of a real-life page-turner better than any summer beach read. The bestselling writer has believed for many months that she was going to be the corpse, the centre of her own story. She armed herself terrified of violent death following incidents as bizarre as anything in her fiction.
Ms Cornwell,40, who is slim with neatly cropped brownish-blonde hair is not flashy ( she wears Armani suits, two gold rings, a signet and a band, and a simple gold cross on a chain around her neck) and still quietly smiles and acknowledges her fans in public but her confident and easy manner has been replaced by an edgy wariness. She is literally on her guard at all times.
Plans to visit Britain to promote 'Cause of Death' have been shelved; the lack of personal appearances will not affect sales.
In all that stuff about truth and fiction the head-shaking material is that the woman who has entertained millions as the Agatha Christie of DNA became involve in a real-life, violent mystery all because she insists on her fiction being true to life.
Passionate about accuracy and detail she apparently fell in love with special agent Marguerite Bennett, an instructor and hostage negotiator, while at the FBI academy in Quantico , Virginia . She was researching her first bestseller, 1990's 'Postmortem', which became the only novel to win the Edgar, John Creasey, Anthony and MacAvity awards and the Prix du Roman d'Aventure in one year.